03 Juni 2008


Being here in the Netherlands, one thing that sometimes annoys me most is the fact that a lot of Dutch people, especially the youngsters, are not aware of the shared history between Indonesia and the Netherlands. Of course they know that their oma or opa 'was in Indonesia in the 1920/1930/1940's', but they don't see that their oma/opa being in Indonesia was a part of colonization. It's not that they don't know anything about it. I even once heard my corridor mates making trivial quiz about VOC. It's just, we studied different sides of history.

On the other hand, we share too much things in common. When I took Dutch course back in Bandung, we always laugh at familiar words that we just found out at that time were originated from Dutch language. And here, you can find ketjap manis and boemboe nasi goreng and babi panggang in supermarket. We don't even have to go to Asian stores for that!

Last weekend, I went to tongtong festival in Den Haag. It's kind of weird that we went to 'Indonesian' festival while we probably wouldn't bother to attend back home, but anyway, there we were. Wandering around souvenir stalls, collect brochures for the next day Belmondo festival and also queuing in kooktheatre where we can have free bites (I had 'soto' with funny taste).

Anyway, there was a corner called 'De Njai; Portret van een vergeten oermoeder'. It displayed the history of Nyai (concubine) during colonization era. It was an ironic display. For instance, there were stories of each nyai, and told as a romance. "Her name was Minah. She was born in... He, Thomas, was born in 1869 in..." I mean, as if it was an equal relationship. As if there was a real love going on. Was there? I don't know. I'm pretty sure that Nyai Ontosoroh didn't love Herman Mellema. But of course she's a fictional character (is she?). But for the other nyai's, the concept of love was probably too abstract to grasp. And did the meneer really love the nyai?

I think the exhibition was quite an eye opener for some people. For me, it was quite unique because I used to overlook the idea that a nyai was also a mother, not merely a sexual slave. They gave birth to those indo (half Dutch-half Indonesian) children, but they were also treated like babu (servant). And they couldn't do anything when the children were taken to the Netherlands.

As always, we Indonesian made photo studio whenever possible. There was a pose with Reza in the middle, surrounded by us girls. And then we jokingly suggested to take the same picture with Joeri in the middle. As if he was the meneer and we were the nyai's. But... ummm... I think it would probably hurt his feeling if we actually suggested that to him. After all, he was the one who hanging out with us all weekend, spent Den Haag-Utrecht train ride to learn Indonesian language and tried to speak Indonesian all along with us. His oma was a nurse in Kalimantan. His oma had lived in Banjarmasin, and survived a Japanese internment camp in Muntilan when she was 15. So I think he's not one of the ignorance youngsters. Or maybe they're not ignorant after all. I remember Sali's roommate story in 2005 Jiffest (forget her name), that the tutor said they were aware about unpleasant past between Indonesia and the Netherlands, and they were sorry and they were not part of it. So what do I expect? That they apologize all the time?

I think war and colonization are by any means bad. But when it comes to people, individuals, we enter the gray area. Like Setadewa in Burung-burung Manyar.

And I, on 5 May, standing before the liberation day parade, not clapping hands.

2 komentar:

  1. The funny things is, after they were surprised by the Germany they went back to suppress Indonesia, they just didn't learn how it feels of being intimated by another country.

  2. By the logic that former oppresseds should not be oppressors, Indonesia shouldn't have occupied East Timor :P